I’ve been reading up on knowledge management topics (due to one of my classes being “Knowledge Management”) and have found that there is a nice subset of knowledge management research focused on managing knowledge in projects. I found this interesting and dove into a few articles that I found.

In the project management world, there is a considerable amount of research describing the reasons for success and/or failure of projects in the information technology space. Most of this research focuses on failures being caused by such things as: lack of executive sponsorship; lack of project management methods, lack of change management processes, project scope size, project duration, etc.

While these causes of failure are quite common in IT projects, one of the largest and most unrecognized reasons for failure, in my opinion, is the lack of proper knowledge management and knowledge transfer methodologies throughout the project management lifecycle.

Most projects that I’ve ever been a part of wait until the end of the project to write a lesson’s learned document. That document is a good exercise, but it doesn’t do anything to manage knowledge during the project or ensure that knowledge is transferred between project members. It also isn’t a given that anyone will ever read the lessons learned document.

Leseure & Brookes (2004) state this clearly when they write:

“Knowledge is generated within one project and then lost. Failure to transfer this knowledge…leads to wasted activity and impaired project performance” (Leseure & Brookes, 2004, p. 103).

How can project managers, team members and organizations ensure that knowledge is captured, transfered and managed in the proper ways? There seems to be a considerable amount of research on the topic.

I have a feeling that regardless of what research is done, the main focus will come down to the culture of the organization. This seems to be backed up by previous research performed by Karlsen & Gottschalk (2004) when results of a survey showed that organizational culture has the most impact on knowledge transfer in projects and should be the one area that organizations focus on when looking at knowledge transfer methodologies and knowledge management capabilities (Karlsen & Gottschalk, 2004, p. 8).

This area of research seems to be a pretty hot right now. The most recent edition of PMI’s Project Management Journal had an article dealing with this same topic and ran a great article from Blaize Horner Reich in 2007 titled “Managing Knowledge and Learning in It Projects: A Conceptual Framework and Guidelines for Practice”. Reich’s article has some interesting concepts and a framework for knowledge management in practice.

Interesting topic…at least to me 🙂 Any readers have some pointers for knowledge management techniques that you’ve used in the past that might be applicable to projects?

References:

  • Leseure, M. J., & Brookes, N. J. (2004). Knowledge management benchmarks for project management. Journal of Knowledge Management, 8(1), 103.
  • Karlsen, J. T., & Gottschalk, P. (2004). Factors Affecting Knowledge Transfer in IT Projects. Engineering Management Journal, 16(1), 3.
  • Reich, B. H. (2007). Managing Knowledge and Learning in It Projects: A Conceptual Framework and Guidelines for Practice. Project Management Journal, 38(2), 5.

[tags] project management, knowledge management [/tags]